Wow, a lot has happened since I last blogged! The oldest is now happily married. My brother and I are back at Liberty University--"the largest Christian university in the world!" And the little sister is conquering her sophomore year of high school. My summer was spent teaching Bible School, taking two online classes, watching as the oldest officially left the nest, dating, and working some at a darling antique/gift store called the Rug Cottage. But more importantly, I spent the summer healing. I let God love on me, and the ways He has freed my heart since I last blogged are indescribable.
My life is no walk on the beach, but as we vacationed at Myrtle Beach this summer, I took a walk on the beach that felt much like watching different scenes from my life. Let's see if I can help you see it, too....
As I walked along and observed, my heart was warmed by the memories of what I had and torn by what I no longer do. I saw a middle-aged couple walking the shoreline, hand-in-hand, their steps in perfect unison. I saw a little girl squealing as she ran full-speed into the open arms of her daddy, her hero. I saw families--moms and dads and brothers and sisters--scrambling to get that family picture that's bound to end up on this year's Christmas card.
In the midst of these images that still come with such mixed emotions some days, I saw the most perfect display of God's splendor.
The air was warm and salty; a breeze was blowing off the ocean as it always does during the last couple hours of daylight. The sun was setting, splashing warm colors across the clouds that dotted the horizon...that endless horizon where the water meets the sky and nothing stands between the power of the ocean and the glory of the heavens. As the night wore on, the almost-full moon rose as the sun set, creating a silver lining on every cloud. Those clouds would pass in front of the moon, but they were so transparent and the moon was so bright that its light wasn't dimmed one bit. They reminded me that no problem I face should be allowed to steal the glory and warmth of God and His love. May He always shine through. This is what I've been learning most of all.
No matter what I'm going through, God is bigger. God is greater.
Here at school, we have convocation three times a week. During this hour, we worship through song and prayer and are given the opportunity to listen to some of the Christian world's most influential men and women. The other day, we sang Meredith Andrew's "Not for a Moment (After All)." One part of the lyrics says "I was held in Your arms, carried for a thousand miles to show not for a moment did You forsake me." Wow. Is that ever true. This line brought me to the poem, "Footprints," that many of you are familiar with. In this poem, God tells man that the times when it looks as if we've been abandoned are actually the times when God remains the closest...that He lovingly carries us in His arms.
While those I know tell me how strong I am, the truth of the matter is that this journey since losing Mom and Dad has been a long and bitter struggle. Too many days, I've lost the battle and given in to fears of the future and accidents, the confusion, and the loss of a sense of identity. I've faced the realization that maybe I'm not as kind-hearted as I always thought...maybe my heart needs a make-over so I can stop playing the part of the perfect pastor's daughter and start embracing the challenges we all must face to look more like our Lord. Challenges like loving sincerely and being willing to associate with those we wouldn't usually been drawn to. I've been learning to love the simple, country-loving girl I am because of how I was raised and who God has called me to be. I've been learning...always learning. And many of the lessons have hurt, but every one of them has drawn me closer to God and brought me deeper peace, security, and a sense of worth even as I realize that I am nothing. He is everything.
You see, nothing will ever last except for the Creator of it all. So I've discovered that the secret to feeling the best about myself and my circumstances is to accept the truth that somehow God has chosen to personally know little ol' me. He knows my name, and He calls me by it. I never thought that was a huge deal until I thought back to the days of having a crush on that cute football player at school and being totally astonished when he said "Hi," and then said my name!! He knew my name!!! Any of you ladies remember that feeling? Like for some reason you were suddenly significant and the world was right because he knew your name, and he called you by that name. God says that's just what He's done. He's called us by name, and He knows our most intimate fears and insecurities and questions and hopes and dreams. He knows how we long to love and be loved, and He offers that to us. With a deep jealousy, He watches us turn from man to unsatisfying man, from magazine to store to mirror, for what only He can give. But when we finally come...blemishes and all--no makeup or brand names to cover up with--He accepts us. And then He keeps on wanting us for all eternity. If that's not good news, I don't know what is.
This walk has not been an easy one, but it has been so very rewarding. With His time, patience, grace, and a whole lotta love, God has pursued me relentlessly. He has carried me for a thousand long miles and reminded me daily of who He is so that I may trust Him. And as I've learned to let go of me while holding on to Him, He has let His blood wash over me and make me clean. He has let His peace settle deep within my soul so that I may rest. He has let His love cradle my broken heart while He's gently rearranged the pieces to make me complete and lovely. He has been my everything even on days when I struggled to believe that He is relevant and able. And I'm so grateful to Him for that!
He has romanced me and made me free. He has given me permission to laugh and carry on and dance barefoot through the rain. He knows my heart and speaks directly to it. And this is what He desires for you.
We all face hard days, and we're all different. But the God who never changes will deal with your heart as it needs to be dealt with. He knows you and loves you with a depth that's beyond what you or I could ever imagine.
Will we take His hand and jump in, or will we promise to call Him back later and then "forget"...again? Life is so much better when we go with the first option! God is an excellent dance partner, and no matter how many times we step on His toes, He'll keep on asking us to dance. So let's dance! Let's laugh and love and twirl and giggle with excitement as we get to know the freeing love of God the Father, the composer of our song, and the care-taker of our hearts.